Category Archives: Open Governance/E-Government/Right to Information

Govt plans to float tenders online

Govt plans to float tenders online
Staff Correspondent

The government is planning to float tenders online to make the public procurement system transparent, accountable and functional and keep it free from undue influence, officials said.

As part of the Public Procurement Reform Project-II, it has taken up a plan to introduce, in phases, e-government procurement (e-GP) to modernise the outdated procurement process and rid it of unjustified influence or physical obstruction.

The finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, has already iterated the government’s plan to go for government purchases online in accordance with its vision of a ‘digital Bangladesh’ by 2121.

According to a study of the World Bank carried out in 2002, the total value of the country’s public procurement amounts to more than $3.0 billion a year.

Both the volume and the value of such expenditures are expected to increase manifold in the coming years as the country is undertaking more development projects, said sources.

More than 80 per cent of the annual development expenditures are spent on government purchase of goods, works and services, according to official statistics.

With the financial assistance of the World Bank, the central procurement technical unit of the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division under the planning ministry has already started the primary work to launch the online tender process.

The unit’s director general Amulya Kumar Debnath told New Age on Thursday four government departments were the targeted agencies under the project. The e-GP will be introduced in 12 to 16 procuring entities under the four agencies on a pilot basis at first.

The four government departments are the Local Government Engineering Department, Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Water Development Board and Rural Electrification Board.

‘The single end-to-end e-GP solution is one of the four components of the project, and after the launch of the e-GP, all procurement-related information will be delivered via a comprehensive integrated platform and e-GP portal,’ he said. ‘All stakeholders can have equal access to information, opportunities and participation in the procurement processes in e-GP.’

The other components of the reforms programme include furthering policy reforms and institutionalising capacity development; strengthening procurement management at the sectorial level, and communication, behavioural change and social accountability.

As a part of capacity building and institutionalising the procurement system in compliance with the Public Procurement Act 2006 and the Public Procurement Rules 2008, four training courses, each spanning three weeks, have already been completed. About 108 such courses will be held for over 10 thousand officials, said Debnath.

A comprehensive social awareness campaign and communication programme on public procurement reforms, law and rules, and social accountability is also under way.

Debnath said the PPA and the PPR have paved the way for making the public procurement system accountable and transparent.

He said there should not be any misconception about the laws and rules concerned. They will not cause any delay or inconvenience in the process of procurement, rather they are safeguards for ensuring fair competition and purchase of quality goods and services with government funds.

‘All government procuring entities, the bidding community, suppliers, consultants and others concerned are expected to comply with the PPA and PPR,’ he noted.

‘As government purchases are made with public money, its proper and full utilisation as per the laws and rules will help us to accelerate the pace of the ADP by implementing the development projects in time,’ said Debnath, adding the CPTU is going to launch an integrated and comprehensive campaign to generate support of all those concerned in favour of the laws, rules and reforms in public procurement.

The abbreviation ‘PPR’ no longer stands for Public Procurement Regulations, which was replaced by the Public Procurement Rules 2008. The Public Procurement Regulations 2003 was declared void as soon as the Public Procurement Act 2006 was made a law. Under the law, rules have been framed and put into force since January 31, 2008.

Besides, the e-GP will also provide comprehensive management information and reporting system as prescribed in the PPR 2008.

Debnath said under the IT Act, the use of e-signature has been accepted.

Many countries’ experience of the e-GP shows these factors, when combined, can yield savings up to 15 per cent or even more, said an expert working at the CPTU.

More than 50 governments around the world are already using the e-GP in one way or another.

Govt set for automation of all institutes, offices

Govt set for automation of all institutes, offices
Says commerce minister
Staff Correspondent

The government is set to go for automation of its all institutes and offices as part of its election promises, said the commerce minister yesterday.

“Automation would help ease manual operations and gain efficiency reducing corruptions and reinforcing accountability in government’s offices and institutes,” said Col (retd) Faruk Khan.

He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Chittagong Customs House Automation Project: A Walkthrough and Cookbook Presentation’ organised by Data Soft Management Services at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in the capital.

The minister said the government considers strengthening IT education in all educational institutions and extending cooperation for IT entrepreneurs to turn the country into a Digital Bangladesh by 2021.

He said parliament will also be automated soon.

Appreciating the venture of Chittagong Customs House Automation, Muhammad Abdul Mazid, chairman of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), said local talents have made it possible.

When donor-funded projects failed to fully complete automation of Chittagong Customs House by spending over Tk 247 crore and working for around 10 years, Data Soft, a local company, successfully did the job in eight months at a minimal cost, he said.

Mahbub Zaman, CEO of DataSoft, said, “We were able to make the project run at a reduced cost mainly because it will function on build-own-operate-transfer basis,”

He said the project is a successful example of public-private partnership where all stakeholders are involved directly.

One of the reasons behind the failure of earlier projects is that their technology was not transferred to the locals properly, he added.

The main feature of the new automation project is that DataSoft has employed around 45 engineers in the project to troubleshoot any problem that the stakeholders may face.

In his keynote paper, Brigadier Hasan Nasir, project coordinator of the venture, showed the detailed planning and action of the project.

Earlier in 1999, a project titled CAM-1 (customs administration modernisation project-1) was the first step for automation.

Later in June 2001, another project titled ‘ASYCUDA++ Migration Project’ was designed to interface the ASYCUDA++ software with the computer system at five customs houses in the country.

Habibullah N Karim, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (Basis), was also present at the seminar.

Digital Bangladesh beckons, e-governance in offing

Digital Bangladesh pledge rings again
Govt purchases may go online


Commerce Minister Faruk Khan visits a stall after the launch of 'BASIS Softexpo-2009' yesterday at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in Dhaka.Photo: STAR

Star Business Report

Stakeholders of the ICT industry breathed a sigh of relief, as government high-ups yesterday reiterated their commitment to do whatever needed for the development of the sector.

Two ministers and one state minister promised before the sector people to develop the industry by any means and execute their election pledge of creating a ‘Digital Bangladesh’. The guests, attending the inauguration of the BASIS Softexpo-2009, lauded the announcement.

The major promises made by the ministers included introduction of the e-payment system, e-governance, along with introducing the ICT curriculum at the secondary level of education.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith said all government purchases should go through online payment or e-commerce to ensure transparency.

Speaking as the chief guest at the launch of the five-day exposition, he said: “I think all government purchases should go through the online system so that transparency can be ensured and corruption be checked.”

Bangladesh has huge legal and infrastructure hurdles to pass before an e-payment system can be introduced. The ICT sector’s pleas to set up an e-payment network and introduce digital signatures were not translated into reality.

‘Softexpo’ is a yearly event of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) that aims to showcase products and services by local and foreign software developers. The US, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Russia are also showcasing their products and IT enabled services at Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Centre.

The finance minister hinted at introducing e-governance soon, saying the administration system should be automated and the government should utilise the innovations of the local software industry.

He advised the industry people to go for ICT (information and communication technology) product manufacturing. “We have the talent. What prevents us from producing micro-processors?” Muhith asked.

Bangladesh’s software industry has a less than 1 percent market share in the $300 billion global market. The country exported software and IT enabled services worth $25 million in 2008.

The export target of IT-enabled services of $30 million by 2009 did not satisfy Commerce Minister Faruk Khan. He said the export target could not be set higher due to a lack of government support.

In line with government plans, ICT will be introduced in the educational curriculum at the secondary level by 2013 and primary level by 2021.

“The government must value the commitments made, especially to the country’s 32 percent youth, during the election campaign to create a Digital Bangladesh by 2021,” he said.

“We are working to identify the sector’s problems and how to overcome these at the same time,” said Yeafesh Osman, state minister for the science and ICT ministry.

BASIS President Habibullah N Karim said Nepal and Bhutan have already introduced e-commerce while Bangladesh lags behind.

He urged the government to allocate 5 percent of the total annual development programme towards the ICT sector, if the government intends to achieve the target of making a digital Bangladesh.

The BASIS Softexpo remains open from 10am to 8pm every day. The fair is free for students, but an entry fee for others is Tk 20.

Full computerisation of government operations in 5 years

Govt plans to fully introduce e-commerce in 5 yrs: Muhith

FE Report

Computerisation of government operations is needed for the development of software industry, said finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on Wednesday.

“We must train the government officials to use more information technology. The government should be the biggest buyer to support the sector,” he said at the inaugural ceremony of the five-day BASIS SoftExpo 2009, organised by the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, in the city.

He also urged the private sector to come forward and support the industry by purchasing locally developed software.

“The sector has immense potential and the government is planning to fully introduce e-commerce within five years,” Mr Muhith said.

The government will introduce e-Government Procurement (e-GP) to modernise its procurement management, he added.

Referring to RMG sector, he said at the initial stage the government had provided support to the industry by allowing entrepreneurs to open back-to-back letter of credit (L/C) and offering bonded warehouse facility and the rest of success story was delivered by the private sector.

“Similarly for the ICT sector the government will support in whatever possible way, but the entrepreneurs will have to make it at least the second largest export earning sector by themselves.”

The entrepreneurs should manage their software companies efficiently to make it a vibrant sector and help the government achieve ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by 2021, he said.

The government will introduce IT course at the secondary level from 2013 and at the primary level from 2021, said commerce minister Muhammad Faruk Khan.

The sector should have an export target of $50-60 million instead of only $30 million as the government is fully committed to help the sector for exporting more software, he said.

The sector in 2008 exported software worth $25 million, which was only $2.5 million in 2001.

ICT is an essential tool for modernistaion, and the government will provide infrastructure for the sector, said state minister for science and ICT Yeafesh Osman. “The government is taking initiative to set up an IT park, and the ICT Policy 2008, drafted by the caretaker government, is under consideration,” he said.

Uninterrupted power supply and internet service are needed for development of the sector, said BASIS president Habibullah N Karim.

“We have 70,000 square feet space with all facilities in BSRS Bhaban where over 50 IT companies are located with 1,700 employees, and they are exporting Tk 120 million worth of software,” he said.

The government could create such exclusive places for housing IT companies and help the entrepreneurs export more, Mr Habib said.

Police Ordinance Website launched to elicit public opinion

Police Ordinance
Website launched to elicit public opinion
Unb, Dhaka

A website was launched to elicit public opinion about the draft Police Ordinance-2008.

The Ministry of Home Affairs launched the website to provide information about the Ordinance and elicit public opinion.

People have been asked to download the website and send their opinion and suggestions about the Ordinance.

Letter containing opinion can be sent to Deputy Secretary (Law) at law section of the ministry.

Opinion and suggestions can also be sent to the e-mail–

‘Info ordinance plays important role in providing information’

‘Info ordinance plays important role in providing information’

Information Secretary Jamil Osman said Monday Rights to Information Ordinance-2008 would play an important role in providing information to doorsteps of the people, reports UNB.

Describing the implementation process of the ordinance as an epoch-making step of the government, he urged all concerned to work sincerely to implement it successfully.

The information secretary was addressing an orientation workshop for MoI officials on ‘Right to Information Ordinance’ organised by Press Institute of Bangladesh (PIB) in its seminar room in the city.

Chief Editor of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury and Director General of the PIB Mohammad Nazrul Islam also addressed the workshop, among others.

Jamil Osman called upon all organisations concerned to appoint a designated information officer within 60 days of the promulgation of the ordinance.

The information secretary also said the process of forming an information commission was undergoing and it would be formed within stipulated time.

Jamil Osman stressed the need for ensuring rights to information with a view to empowering the people. He said designated information officers should work very carefully to provide applicants with information smoothly.

Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury said implementation of the Right to Information Ordinance was a good sign for establishing good governance and democratic values in the country.

He said other south Asian countries already have made progress in this direction while many advanced nations did it long before for a transparent society.

Automation of Dhaka Customs House soon

Automation of Dhaka Customs House soon

Mahmuda Shaolin

The automation of the operational activities of Dhaka Customs House (DCH) will start soon to ensure hassle-free services for importers and exporters.

Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has taken a move to provide necessary logistic support including finance to DCH for introducing the automation of export-import procedures under an agreement, DCCI sources said.

The DCCI will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the DCH authorities today (Sunday) for automation of the operational activities of DCH.

“We’ve planned to start installation of automation immediately after signing of the MoU. DCCI will provide both logistic and financial support for the purpose,” DCCI president Hossain Khaled told the FE Saturday.

He said DCCI has initially estimated the installation cost for the automation system at Tk 30 million. It will take maximum six months to complete the automation system fully, the DCCI president said.

He said introduction of automation system at the DCH would significantly reduce irregularities and corruption, particularly the tax-dodging.

Referring to the automation of Chittagong Customs House (CCH), Hossain Khaled said a similar technology will be used for automation of the DCH that will reduce time and cost for automation.

“Revenue earnings from the DCH will grow after the automation system is introduced as it will help stop fraudulent practices,” said the DCCI president.

As the same technology will be used for the DCH automation like CCH, the entire process of Import General Manifesto (IGM) module would be brought under the first phase of automation while total operation of the DCH including the process related to duty assessment for import cargoes and documentation of export cargoes would be done through on-line facilities.

When the full automation becomes functional, a consignee will be able to conduct the whole export process through on-line from his business establishment without physical presence at the DCH.

The automation will protect the honest businessmen from harassment and keep away the tax dodgers from doing illegal business, the DCCI president added.

Selected unions to get Tk 210cr for stronger governance at grassroots

Selected unions to get Tk 210cr for stronger governance at grassroots

BSS, Dhaka

The local government ministry is releasing Taka 210 crore for 2,257 selected unions from next January across the country as expanded block grant (EBG) under its Local Government Support Project (LGSP), a campaign to promote participatory governance at grassroots.

“Since the introduction of the project two years ago, most of the UPs (Union parishad) saw their revenue earnings three to four times higher then the previous years expediting their development engaging the villagers in the planning and implementation process,” Local Government ministry joint secretary Swapan Kumar Sarker, who oversees the project told BSS.

More importantly, he said, the LGSP to UPs, selected under certain criteria based on the performance of their elected bodies, has generated a sense of competitiveness among the elected body at the lowest tier of the local government body to engage the people at the grassroots in the UP activities and spend their funds with utmost transparency.

Jointly funded by the government and the World Bank, the Taka 1,421 crore project was introduced in 2006 after pilot experiments at several areas while it already covered nearly half of the country’s 4,498 UPs and expected to cover all the UPs by 2011, when the project period will be ended.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNCDF, European Union (EU), Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) and DANIDA are also supporting the project financing LGSP’s “learning and innovation” component as grants.

The officials said, the local government ministry so far sanctioned Taka 210 crore for 2,257 gradually selected UPs across the country as expanded block grant (EBG) under the LGSP during the 2008-2009 fiscal.Besides, Government has also allocated Taka 15 crore as supplementary block grant (SBG), in addition to EBG, to 388 union parisads under the learning and innovation component of the project to strengthen UPs capacity to ensure effective and efficient service delivery in an accountable manner.

The initial list of union parishads were finalised based on the UPs performance of the previous year. The officials said, the project incorporate about 20 to 25 percent of the country’s total 4,498 UPs annually to under LGSP with an aim to cover all the UPs by 2011, the five-year project period would be ended.

A total of Taka 98 crore and 17 lakh had been released as EBG to 1,060 union parishad during financial year 2007-08. An amount of Taka more than five crore and 32 lakh had also been released to 80 union parishad as SBG under LGSP-LIC.The officials said, the UPs have implemented different schemes like development of rural roads, culverts, bridges, embankments, cannels, ferry ghats, slow ease gate, water and sewerage facilities, schools and health centers, library and market management.

“But, the people now themselves take account what resources they have and what the union parishad is doing with what limitations,” a LGSP official said referring to his experience at the field level while evaluating the project success.

He said, ordinary housewives and marginal farmers join the budget meetings alongside the local elite and affluent businessmen of the unions in the annual budget meetings as the project not only helped make UPs accountable or transparent.

Ministry to put laws, regulations online, bundled on CDs

Ministry to put laws, regulations online, bundled on CDs
Staff Correspondent

The law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministry has taken a move to make available all laws and regulations made as of October 20, 2008 online and bundled on compact disks for the public.

‘All laws including the ordinances promulgated in about two years of the present government will be made available on a web site for the public as part of the government’s initiative to introduce e-governance,’ the law secretary, Kazi Habibul Awal, told reporters at a news briefing at the secretariat on Thursday.

He said the present government had so far promulgated around 90 ordinances to introduce new laws and to amend the old ones.

Asked about the fate of the ordinances promulgated during the tenure of the interim government of Fakhruddin Ahmed, the law secretary said, ‘The fate of the laws will be determined in accordance with the constitution.’

The chief adviser, Fakhruddin Ahmed is expected to inaugurate the ‘Laws of Bangladesh’ and ‘Bangladesh Code’ on the law ministry web site, Awal said.

The Bangladesh Code incorporating all laws and their amendments from 1836 to 2007 were published in 38 volumes in November 2007. The ‘Laws of Bangladesh’ and ‘Bangladesh Code’ will now be available on .

The exercise of law will increase with more people now getting chance to be aware of the laws through the internet, the secretary said, adding it would help to bring in more transparency and accountability in public administration.

Right to Information Ordinance Gazetted

RTI Gazetted
8 agencies kept out of info access
People have to wait 90 days to enjoy the right
Staff Correspondent

The Right to Information Ordinance, 2008 (RTI) came into effect with the government publishing a gazette notification Monday. However, people will have to wait 90 working days before they can use the law to get information.

Within the 90 working days, an information commission will be formed for proper execution of the law and resolving public complaints regarding information. All preparation for releasing information under the law would be made within these 90 days.

Even though at first six security and intelligence agencies were kept outside the purview of the ordinance, the gazette shows eight agencies.

The agencies are National Security Intelligence, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Defence Intelligence Unit, Criminal Investigation Department of police, Special Security Force, intelligence cell of National Board of Revenue.

The Special Branch of Police and intelligence unit of Rapid Action Battalion were added later.

However, if the information is related to corruption and violation of human rights in these agencies, they will have to provide the information within 30 days.

The ordinance classifies information which may pose threat to the security, integrity and sovereignty of Bangladesh, obstruct law enforcement or incite any offence, endanger public security or impede due judicial process of a pending case, affect any criminal investigation, be prejudicial to the special rights of the Parliament, documents including summaries to be placed before the cabinet, or the council of advisers and information relating to discussions and decisions of such meetings.

Within 60 days of promulgation of the ordinance all public, autonomous and statutory organisations and other private institutions run on government or foreign funding that have been brought under the new law will nominate an officer-in-charge for each of the unit to provide information.

“Appointing authorised officers at government offices requires government orders. We will request all ministries in seven days to issue orders in this regard,” Information Secretary Jamil Osman told The Daily Star.

The information ministry will form a five-member selection committee soon to recommend candidates for the job of chief information commissioner and information commissioners to the president. It will recommend two candidates for each post.

“We will soon prepare our proposal for the selection committee and finalise it after getting the nod from government high-ups,” the information secretary said, adding that his ministry has commenced a 12-week-long roadmap for implementing the ordinance.

A judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, nominated by the chief justice, will head the selection committee that will also have the cabinet secretary as a member. The Speaker of the parliament would nominate a member each from the treasury bench and the opposition bench and the government would nominate a representative of eminent citizens for the selection committee.

The information commission will consist of a chief information commissioner and two commissioners, at least one of them will be a woman. It will have its headquarters in Dhaka and in case of necessity would be able to establish offices anywhere in Bangladesh.

The information commission will lay down guidelines to be followed by the authorities for publication and publicity of information and obtaining information.

Every authority shall prepare and publicise a list of information which will be supplied free of cost, the ordinance says.

People will have to apply for information either in writing or through electronic media or through email and will have to pay fees for applying and for the information where applicable.

However, the authorities may exempt an individual or a class of individuals or any other class from paying such fees.

The government in consultation with the information commission and by notification in official gazette may fix the fees and if needed the price of information.

The officer-in-charge of providing information upon receiving a request will provide the information within 20 working days. However, if more than one unit or authority is involved, the information will be provided within 30 working days.

If the officer-in-charge fails to provide the information, he will inform the applicant the causes in writing within 10 working days.

If the sought information is linked to life and death, arrest or release from jail, the officer-in-charge will provide the preliminary information within 24 hours.

The council of advisers on September 20 gave the final approval to the RTI ordinance.

Against the backdrop of a longstanding demand, the caretaker government took the initiative to formulate the RTI as part of its institutional reforms. After an eight-member government-formed body prepared a primary draft in February, opinions from different stakeholders were sought before the information ministry submitted it to the cabinet on June 18 when it approved it in principle.

RTI given go-ahead

RTI given go-ahead
Shamim Ashraf

The council of advisers yesterday gave final approval to the much-awaited Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance 2008 aimed at ensuring people’s right to information.

New posts will be created in most of the government offices and non-government organisations (NGOs). Officials holding those posts will provide people with the information they seek within 20 days of receipt of applications from them, says the ordinance.

But in cases of issues concerning a person’s life and death, arrest and release from jail, the officials will have to provide primary information within 24 hours, it says.

The widely-debated law ensures people’s right to information from organisations run with public money, and the NGOs using foreign funds, Information Secretary Jamil Osman, who placed the proposal before the council of advisers, told The Daily Star last night.

The law covers government offices down to upazila level.

“The rest of the local government bodies, like union parishads, will be covered by the laws on different local bodies which have provisions for ensuring people’s access to information,” the information secretary said.

The RTI ordinance with 36 sections and a schedule of six security and intelligence agencies, which cannot be asked for information, has a list of about 20 instances of exemption from disclosure of information, an official said seeking anonymity.

The government said the new law will increase transparency and accountability, reduce corruption and establish good governance in government offices and NGOs.

Different rights and journalists forums have welcomed the government move terming final approval of the ordinance a ‘historic step’.

The advisory council gave final nod to the RTI Ordinance 2008, 94 days after it approved the ordinance in principle, at a meeting chaired by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Details of the ordinance were not available immediately. It will come into effect after the president signs it.

Under the new law, people will have to pay fees for filing application seeking information. But people living below poverty line will be able to apply in white sheets of paper without paying any fees.

A three-member Information Commission headed by a chief information commissioner will be formed to properly enforce the law and deal with complaints from the information seekers.

“One of the two commissioners will be a woman,” Syed Fahim Munaim, press secretary to the chief adviser, told reporters after the council meeting.

The Information Commission, apart from financial liberty, has been entrusted with the authority to punish or fine officials who will fail to provide primary information on life and death, arrest and release of a person from prison within 24 hours, he said.

The president will appoint the chief information commissioner and information commissioners on the basis of suggestions from a five-member selection committee.

The chief justice will nominate a judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court to head the selection committee. The Speaker will nominate two parliament members — one each from the treasury and opposition benches– while the government will nominate one from among eminent citizens.

The cabinet secretary will be the other member of the selection committee.

If any assigned official does not provide information to an information-seeker as per the law, he will have to pay Tk 50 for a day’s delay and a total fine not exceeding Tk 5,000, according to a provision of the ordinance.

The ordinance will not cover National Security Intelligence, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Military Intelligence Directorate, Special Security Force, Criminal Investigation Department of Police and Central Intelligence Cell of the National Board of Revenue.

This provision will not apply if the information concerns corruption and human rights violation.

Welcoming the government move, Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, which has been working for several years for enactment of the law, said, “It is historic. If there is anything that needs to be changed, it can be done later.”

Congratulating the government on its approval of the ordinance, Shawkat Mahmud, president of the Jatiya Press Club, also termed it a historic move.

The information secretary said 99 percent of the NGOs will be covered by the law. “We’ve tried to ensure maximum disclosure of information. If there is any lapse in the ordinance, there is always a scope to address that,” he said.

Describing implementation of the law as a crucial job, he said the main tasks include forming the information commission, creating information bank and information dissemination system at offices and training up the staff.

Against the backdrop of a longstanding demand, the caretaker government took the initiative to formulate an RTI law as part of its institutional reforms. After an eight-member government-formed body prepared a primary draft in February, opinions from different stakeholders were sought before the information ministry submitted it to the cabinet on June 18.

Drafts of new rules or amendments to be placed on website

Drafts of new rules or amendments to be placed on website

Drafts of new rules and regulations or amendments deemed necessary by the government for pre-publication will be released on websites of the ministries concerned for public opinion with three months time-limit before finalisation, reports UNB.

Notice about uploading the drafts on website will be given in print media, as per decision of the caretaker government, engrossed in doing sweeping reforms meant for transparency and good governance against the backdrop of past crises.

A meeting of the Council of Advisers with Chief Adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed in the chair approved the decisions after discussing a proposal for implementation of the second spell of interim recommendations made by the Regulatory Reforms Commission (RRC) and placed by the Cabinet Division.

The meeting discussed the draft of Dhaka Shishu Hospital Ordinance 2008 and sent it back for further vetting.

However, the meeting found the need for proper running of the hospital and viewed that its “proper management is an imperative”.

The Council of Advisers also elaborately discussed the draft of the Non-Realisable Public Utility Bill Ordinance 2008 and sent back for further discussion with stakeholders and further examination in the light of the discussion at the council-of- advisers meeting.

Chief Adviser’s Press Secretary Syed Fahim Munaim briefed newsmen about the outcome of the meeting.

Advisers and Special Assistants to the Chief Adviser attended the meeting at the CA’s office. Cabinet Secretary, CA’s Press Secretary and Secretaries concerned were also present.

Govt mulls ethical society to curb graft

Govt mulls ethical society to curb graft
Formulating National Integrity Strategy; PM to lead ADB-financed good governance project
Julfikar Ali Manik

The government is considering introducing a ‘national integrity strategy’ (NIS) in a bid to create an ethical society to back up its drives against rampant corruption.

The government aims at achieving the goal through ‘rebuilding integrity’ in every segment of the society including public, private and political sectors.

Though the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is responsible to prosecute the corrupt, policymakers of the present government believe it’s impossible to fight graft only by ACC through prosecution, say sources involved in formulation of NIS.

“So the government has taken initiatives to formulate NIS to combat corruption through moral-based approach to complement the ACC’s functions,” says a source.

Explaining the perspective of coming up with a new idea, another source argues: “Ineffective formal control and lack of social and citizen-oriented anti-corruption accountability mechanisms have added to what could be termed a crisis of integrity.”

“This calls for a longer-term change process with a strong reform regime that would sit at the core of the good governance agenda of the government,” the source adds.

“Given the holistic nature of a national integrity strategy, its full implementation would be long-term — more like a decade than months,” observes Barrister Manzoor Hasan, director of Institute of Governance Studies (IGS), Brac University, who is involved in formulation of NIS draft through consultation with cross-sections of people in the country.

The sources say the government is formulating NIS as part of the four-year project styled “Supporting the Good Governance Program” financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The ADB is providing the government with a loan of $150 million (Tk 1,050 crore) for this project, which is likely to be increased up to $170 million, sources say. They add the donor agency also suggests that the government formulate NIS.

A draft of NIS is expected to be prepared by mid-September, said Matiar Rahman, joint secretary (committee and development) of the Cabinet Division, who is working as the co-coordinator of the Good Governance Programme.

Rahman said the ultimate goal of NIS is to strengthen integrity at the individual, institution and national levels “because the values, ethics and morals have already been distorted which we need to rebuild in every level.”

“The NIS is mainly to prevent corruption in government institutions. Our ultimate vision is to free the country from corruption. Through implementation of the strategy, we want to prevent corruption in public sectors and ensure proper service to people through public institutions.”

“We have plans to work on integrity issue from family to national level. As a result of NIS, we want to get a country free from corruption and people will get proper services from public offices,” added Rahman.

In Asia, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have such integrity strategies in different names. The Malaysian’s strategy is called ‘National Integrity Plan’, he said.

Different sources say India and Pakistan are also working to formulate such integrity strategies.

“We have examples that some countries have gained many achievements through implementation of such integrity policies,” said Barrister Manzoor Hasan.

“As integrity will increase in our society, the ordinary citizens have a greater sense of ownership. They will be able to express their views without fear. The quality of basic services — health and education — will improve,” he added.

The government has designated IGS to prepare the draft of the strategy and IGS submitted a National Framework on it to the Cabinet Division in June. The IGS on August 27 submitted another detailed document to the Cabinet Division as a process of finalising the draft.

Sources say initially it was proposed by IGS to set up a ‘national integrity institute’ by this month, which will be run under policy guidance of a high-powered National Integrity Advisory Committee (NIAC) headed by the prime minister or the chief adviser.

It was also proposed that the government would form a ‘national integrity council’ (NIC) to lead the implementation of the strategy and the government’s plan is to make NIC functional before the national elections proposed to be held in the third week of December.

But the government is not willing to set up a separate institute to implement NIS, the sources say. According to the policy guidance of NIAC, an NIS cell in the Cabinet Division headed by an additional or joint secretary will now facilitate implementation of the strategy through ministries, constitutional bodies and other institutions.

The NIS cell will facilitate formation of Ethics Committee and appointment of Ethics Focal Person in each ministry and other government institutes (those will be considered as participating agencies of NIS) headed by the secretaries of the ministries and head of the institutes.

The ethics committees will work to ensure integrity within the ministry and in other organisations or offices under the ministries in line with the national documents of NIS, which will set a minimum standard of integrity to be maintained.

Besides, these committees will make an action plan in line with NIS to implement the strategy in their offices, while Ethics Focal person will maintain liaison with NIS Cell in view of the progress of implementation.

“We cannot force people in private sectors to form such an ethics committee in their own arena, but we can request them to do so in the name of anything,” a source observes.

The sources say they are considering formation of NIAC drawing members from each participating agencies of the state institutions and non-state institutions.

The state institutions are parliament, the executive (cabinet ministers), judiciary, civil service, local government, public prosecution, Public Service Commission, ACC, the Election Commission, Ombudsmen and Comptroller and Auditor General.

Non-state institutions are family, civil society, NGOs, private sector, media and political parties.

“The state and non-state institutions are in the National Integrity System. We will decide representatives from different institutions later through discussions,” says a source.

The sources add there will be a provision that the head of the participating agencies of NIS will be members of NIAC.

“It will be an opportunity to bring all the heads of the important bodies to the same forum. Now they don’t have any scope to sit to decide anything together,” a source adds.

If this plan is implemented, NIAC led by the prime minister or the chief adviser will be formed comprising the Speaker, cabinet ministers, an elected representative from local government, attorney general, ACC and PSC chairmen, chief election commissioner, Ombudsman, Comptroller and Auditor General, and representatives from NGO, business sector, media, civil society and political parties and families.

No selection process has been chalked out yet to select a representative from family for NIAC, says a source.

A draft national framework of NIS suggests that the government consider the life-span of NIS, which could be four to 10 years, or can be extended by laws.

The sources go on to say the government already has mechanisms in the ministries and their field offices to handle grievances.

The mechanisms have been set up as part of the Good Governance Programme, which will be strengthened further when NIS comes into effect, the sources say, adding promulgation of the Right to Information Ordinance is also a part of the project which will be a key issue for implementing NIS.

e-procurement system to bring transparency in using public funds soon

e-procurement system to bring transparency in using public funds soon

Special Assistant to the Chief Adviser for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Dr M Tamim has said the government would set up an e-procurement system to bring transparency and reduce corruption in handling public funds, reports BSS.

“We will establish the e-governance in the procurement system to ensure transparency and accountability for using the public money,” he said while speaking as the chief guest at the concluding session of a three-day international workshop at a city hotel Wednesday.

The Asia regional workshop on `Implementing Procurement Reforms and Improving Procurement Performance’ was organised by the Planning Commission with the support of World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Australian AusAid.

IMED Secretary Sheikh AK Motahar Hossain chaired the concluding session of the workshop.

The special assistant said harmonisation is needed among the development partners as various development partners have various procurement policies, which is one of the major causes of delaying the implementation of government projects.

“I personally faced such kind of problems in handling various procurement policies,” he said, adding “Reform is also needed in the donor’s procurement policies side by side with the government’s initiatives.”

Dr Tamim said reforms in the public procurement system started from 2003 by formulating a regulation. After that, in 2006, a public procurement act was passed and to implement the act properly, the present government has enacted public procurement rules-2008, he added.

Dr Tamim expressed the hope that the public procurement law and rules would bring accountability and transparency in the whole procurement process, including tender, project approval, work execution and duties of civil servants.

He said training and updating knowledge are very important for proper understanding of different procurement laws and policies to bring efficiency in the entire process.

Later, Sheikh Motahar said they have already appointed an international and a local procurement experts under the central procurement technical unit (CPTU) to set up the e-procurement system.

“We could be able to start the e-procurement system by July next year on a pilot basis and within two to three years it could be run completely,” he said.

After setting up the e-procurement system, anyone could get information from website even from his/her home.

Nearly 100 participants from host Bangladesh and 16 other countries participated in seven working sessions of the workshop.

Council of Advisers approves Right to Information Ordinance

Council of Advisers approves Right to Information Ordinance

BSS, Dhaka

The Council of Advisers at a meeting yesterday approved, in principle, the draft ‘Right to Information Ordinance-2008′ to ensure transparency, good governance and accountability of government organisations, as part of the ongoing institutional reforms, chief adviser’s press secretary Syed Fahim Munaim said.

The Chief Adviser, Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed, chaired the meeting held at his office attended by the Advisers and The Chief Adviser’s Special Assistants. The meeting over the Syed Fahim Munaim told reporters that the advisers discussed the draft in detail and requested the concerned ministry to place it before the council for final approval after vetting by the law ministry, with its suggestions.

The proposed ordinance, he said, would require the government to appoint a three-member Information Commission headed by a Chief Information Commissioner.

The press secretary said the government took the initiative to make the ordinance because right to information was a fundamental right in a democratic system.

The Cabinet Secretary, Press Secretary and Secretaries were present.